Three Big Takeaways: ‘Uncharacteristic’ loss for Cyclones shows continued issues

TJ Otzelberger walks off the floor after the Cyclones’ loss to Oklahoma State on March 2.

Matt Belinson

AMES — T.J. Otzelberger called Wednesday’s 53-36 loss an ‘out-of-character’ performance for the Iowa State men’s basketball team.

But after setting a new low for points scored in the history of Hilton Coliseum for the second time in the same season, questions persisted about a familiar sight of offensive struggles for the Cyclones.

“We were definitely out of character tonight. Didn’t have the chip on our shoulder we needed to have, didn’t play with the toughness,” Otzelberger said.

“The physical effort, the want-to that we’ve developed our identity around. We’re not a good enough team to just show up and think that teams are just gonna let us get the victory.”

The lows become familiar

Iowa State’s 36 points on Wednesday is good for the fewest in the history of Hilton Coliseum, breaking the previous record set on Jan. 22 vs TCU when the Cyclones lost 59-44 to TCU.

It’s also the first time since Dec 29, 1962, the Cyclones have failed to crack at least 40 points.

While the historically poor numbers speak for themselves, Otzelberger said offense has been a problem all year for this team. But Wednesday was a case of Iowa State not realizing poor offense is going to be more common for this group than not.

And instead of turning up the effort on defense, Otzelberger saw the Cyclones give the Cowboys the victory on their home court.

Sitting at 20-10 on the season, Iowa State has one last opportunity to get the ship steered out of the deep end before the postseason arrives.

“Credit to them, they came in here physically wanted to win,” Otzelberger said. “Their spirit was a lot better than ours, and that’s very humbling to admit.”

“We’re not an extremely gifted offensive team, we gotta hang our hat on our defense.”

Wednesday was the fourth time Iowa State has shot under 35 percent in league play and the 10th time its shot under 30 percent from three. 

Izaiah Brockington led the Cyclones with 13 points on 5-17 shooting, after starting 2-2 from the field early in the first half.

Nights like Wednesday are extreme, but the issues of scoring are nothing new for this group to face. The team’s 28.3 field goal percentage is a new season-low.

But what goes wrong when it gets as bad as it got against Oklahoma State?

Brockington explained the Cyclones rush shots and get in their own heads, letting defensive effort slip and create little momentum for themselves.

Where does it go from here?

“Continue to work on ourselves individually and then just figuring out what shots are right for us, how we’re going to get through different defenses while running our sets, not letting defenses dictate us,” Brockington said.

“We can’t let missing shots dictate our effort on defense.”

Before the loss to the Cowboys, the Cyclones ranked last in the Big 12 in scoring offense at 68.3 ppg.

Turnovers become nothing

On paper, Iowa State did make life difficult for the Cowboys.

Oklahoma State finished the game with 22 turnovers, which ties a season-high for a conference opponent versus the Cyclones.

The problem was, Iowa State did almost nothing with the giveaways.

The Cyclones scored six points off 22 turnovers, while the Cowboys took advantage of Iowa State missteps to the tune of 17 points off turnovers.

“We had 10 live-ball turnovers, that leads to 17 transition points for them, that allows them to separate as well,” Otzelberger said.

The Cowboys gave the Cyclones a rare look of zone-defense — the ideal system to play against a poor three-point shooting team like Iowa State. The Cyclones were unable to get drive and kicks in the paint and often coughed up the ball mid-catch or in live-ball settings after turning the Cowboys over.

And going 2-17 from three doesn’t help either.

The physical defense played Wednesday caused a bit of confusion for Iowa State at times, and Otzelberger and his players noticed a lack of energy when it came time to set up offense.

Tyrese Hunter, who ended the night with 12 points and three steals, said the Cowboys’ style of play didn’t affect Iowa State as much as some might think.

“I feel like I’ve been seeing that pressure the whole conference season, the whole season, so I wouldn’t say it threw me off,” Hunter said.

Where’s the bench?

Iowa State’s rode into Hilton on a four-game winning streak, riding the performances of Brockington and Hunter setting career-highs in points scored and assists.

But Wednesday showed another lack of help in the scoring department, especially from those off the bench.

The Cyclones got four points from their bench against the Cowboys, the third time in the last five games they’ve failed to get 10 points from their bench.

Robert Jones went 2-3 with four points to score all Iowa State would get from its backups.